Neil Young takes Trump's reelection campaign to court for copyright infringement

By Ganesh Setty, CNN

    (CNN) -- Rock & Roll legend Neil Young has sued President Donald Trump's reelection campaign for copyright infringement over its use of two songs at the President's political rallies and events.

"This complaint is not intended to disrespect the rights and opinions of American citizens, who are free to support the candidate of their choosing," Young's lawyers wrote in the complaint, which was filed on Tuesday in the Southern District of New York and posted on the artist's website.

"However, Plaintiff in good conscience cannot allow his music to be used as a 'theme song' for a divisive, un-American campaign of ignorance and hate."

The President's reelection campaign repeatedly played "Rockin' in the Free World" and "Devil's Sidewalk" at several rallies without seeking permission, including at the June 20 rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, that drew widespread criticism for taking place amidst the Covid-19 pandemic, the complaint said.

It's not the first time that the Rock & Roll Hall of Famer and two-time Grammy-winning artist has voiced his opposition to the Trump campaign's use of his songs.

"I stand in solidarity with the Lakota Sioux & this is NOT ok with me," Young tweeted in response to a video showing "Rockin' in the Free World" being played before the President's July 3 rally at Mount Rushmore.

Young has levied public objections with the Trump campaign since it first played the song during the President's campaign announcement on June 16, 2015, Young's lawyers wrote.

Back in 2016, Young told Reuters that he would have liked the Trump campaign to ask for permission to use the song before it was played at rallies. The campaign had issued a statement saying it obtained a license to do so, Young's lawyers said in the complaint.

This time around, the campaign has "willfully ignored" Young's requests to stop playing his songs despite knowing that a license is necessary, they continued.

The musician is seeking as much as $150,000 per each copyright infringement and asking that the campaign not to play his songs ever again, according to the complaint.

Spats between political campaigns and musicians who say their views don't align with a specific candidate's have become a perennial occurrence in modern politics.

The Trump campaign also garnered warnings of legal action from The Rolling Stones and criticism from the family of the late Tom Petty when it used the artists' songs during the June Tulsa rally.

Young's lawyers and representatives with the President's reelection campaign were not immediately available for further comment.

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